- What might I expect during my son/daughter's transition to college?
- What about homesickness?
- How can parents help students accomplish college student developmental tasks?
- My student is a freshman and doesn't have many friends on campus. What activities at UMD might help him/her to get more involved?
- How can I speak with a staff member during orientation?
- I've been trying to encourage my child to make a counseling appointment but he/she doesn't want to go. How can I encourage him/her to get the needed help?
- How long does it take to get an appointment?
- What is the best way to set up counseling for my entering freshman?
- Do counselors call students to encourage them to make an appointment?
- Can the counselor call me to keep me updated on how treatment is going?
- What if I want to share information about my child or inquire about how he/she is doing?
- How can the Counseling Center help if my student is having serious academic problems?
- What if a parent, another student, or a faculty or staff member is concerned about a student?
Specific parental concerns
- My son/daughter is already in therapy and on medication. What should I do about the therapy and medication while he/she is attending UMD?
- Help! My son only has a little bit of his medication left, and he was told the psychiatrist couldn't just give him medication until he met her for a full initial evaluation in two to four weeks. What do I do?
- What if it is very late in the night and a student is experiencing a psychological or emotional crisis?
- What if my student is hospitalized for psychological reasons?
- If my student needs to withdraw because of psychological problems, how can the Center help?
- My student has or may have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and needs to see the psychiatrist for medication. What does he/she need to do to have this happen?
- My student has a learning disability. What help can he/she find on campus?
- I think my son/daughter may have an eating disorder. What do I say?
- How do I help my son/daughter who may have been sexually assaulted?
- What do I say to my student who has experienced a traumatic event (death of loved one, mugging, etc.)?
- My son/daughter has stopped going to class and sounds depressed. What should I do?
- I think my student is drinking too much. Where can I send him/her for help?
- My daughter's boyfriend is abusive. Where can she go for help?
Of course, every student responds to the challenges of college differently. If your son/daughter has gone away from home before, his or her reaction to college may be very similar. If this is the first time your student is leaving home for any period of time, the transition may include periods of feeling lonely, isolated, apprehensive and insecure. It is important that you listen to his/her feelings and reinforce his/her strengths. Encourage involvement with other students and with student organizations. You can both work to develop a new, more adult relationship of mutual respect, sharing stories and enjoying this time in your lives. You still represent important guidelines for decision making and although your student may be 18, your advice and involvement are best continued.
Homesickness is a term used to describe what may be experienced as physical symptoms of nausea, sleeplessness and apprehension during a time that an individual is actually away from home and away from either the physical or the psychological aspects of "security." Speaking directly about the feelings of sadness, apprehension and loss seems to decrease homesickness, especially when shared with another person who is also experiencing homesickness. It is also helpful to work directly on establishing a sense of security in the new environment by making new friends, connecting with a faculty member and establishing a routine. Homesickness, regarded as a normal part of the transition to college, generally occurs within the first six weeks of the first semester at college. It is generally mild and passes fairly quickly but can be severe and persistent.
The Counseling Center staff has extensive experience in helping students overcome homesickness. In cases where the student's feelings of homesickness are severe and persistent, the staff can also be helpful in determining whether a timely decision to withdraw and/or transfer to a college closer to home might be in the student's best interest.
Several resources on the internet provide a good picture of the kinds of developmental tasks that are normal for college-age students, and make suggestions for how parents can help in this process. For example:
When Your Child Goes to College (The Morning Call)
Help Your Child Make the Transition from College to High School (360 Degrees of Financial Literacy)
Homesickness: How to Help Your Child (College Board)
My student is a freshman and doesn't have many friends on campus. What activities at UMD might help him/her to get more involved?
Students who take part in student organizations, athletics and community service activities tend to make more friends and enjoy their college years more than those students who are not involved in extracurricular activities. Encourage your freshman to join one of the many student organizations on campus by contacting the SAIL office( 2nd floor of the Campus Center), volunteer for community service through the Community Service Program (ground floor of LARTS) or take part in one of the many sports, intramural or fitness center activities offered through the Athletics department (Tripp Athletic Center).
The Counseling Center's Director leads a session during orientation for parents. Parents may also stop by the Center while they are on campus for Family Orientation and ask to talk with one of our staff. If you would prefer, you also can call the Center (508.999.8648/8650) to schedule an appointment in advance.
I've been trying to encourage my child to make a counseling appointment but he/she doesn't want to go. How can I encourage him/her to get the needed help?
After listening to your son/daughter's thoughts and feelings in a sensitive, non-judgmental way, you can instill hope by helping them to realize that there are a number of resources available on-campus to assist them with their problems. Point out that help is available at the Counseling Center and that you believe using resources like counseling is a sign of strength and maturity, rather than a sign of weakness or failure. Give information about the counseling service and prepare them for what to expect. If a student is simply not ready to use professional counseling services, you can suggest other resources such as talking with Housing & Residential Life staff, chaplains, faculty advisors, friends or other trusted adults as a first step in addressing concerns.
Students can generally schedule an intake appointment within 2-3 days. If a student has a pressing problem, they can be seen without a scheduled appointment Monday-Friday from noon to 3 p.m. during Walk-In hours. If a student is in crisis, a member of the Center's staff will meet with the student as soon as possible.
If your son or daughter already has an established relationship with a therapist, we recommend that the topic of your student's need for therapy at college be discussed with his/her current therapist with the knowledge that services at UMD's Counseling Center are short-term in nature. If long-term counseling is preferred, your student may choose to arrange regular visits home to keep appointments with his/her current therapist. If distance prevents this, we suggest you contact the Center's Director prior to starting college and we will facilitate a referral to a local private practitioner. We will also provide assistance with that first semester's crucial adjustment to college. To that end, we encourage any incoming first year student at UMD who has pre-existing mental health issues to schedule an intake appointment with the Counseling Center in late August. This will allow your son or daughter to connect with one of our staff and sign releases so we can coordinate care, if needed, with their off-campus therapist. It will also allow us to schedule regular check-ins at the Counseling Center throughout that first semester. And it will provide an opportunity to discuss whether any housing or academic accommodations are needed and how to obtain these.
Counseling Center staff members do not generally contact students and ask them to come in or inquire about their mental health. It is our belief that counseling is most effective when it is voluntary, and students often perceive such calls as intrusive. If a situation exists in which the Center receives information that a student is in imminent danger as a result of a psychological problem, a wellness check will be initiated, and, when needed, appropriate law enforcement or emergency medical personnel will be contacted. The Center will contact parents in situations where a student's physical safety or well-being is at risk, when such contact can add to the student's safety.
Because of mental health laws and confidentiality restrictions, we cannot provide any information about your son/daughter without a written release giving specific permission to do so. Students can sign a Release of Information form, which allows the counselor to verify attendance, report on progress, or discuss aspects of the therapy. We encourage you to ask your child to sign a release if you want reports about attendance or progress. We encourage students to communicate directly with their parents about their treatment.
On occasion we ask that the student arrange for his or her parents to attend a counseling session or arrange for a phone conference. Our psychiatrist will occasionally ask a student to have his or her parent come in to provide a better developmental history.
We do not initiate calls to parents unless their son/daughter requests the call be made or we determine, due to immediate safety concerns, it is in the best interest of the student to call a parent.
Although we cannot give out information to parents unless the student has signed a release, we can listen to parents' concerns. Frequently parents do have insights into the situation that are helpful to the student and to the process of therapy. We will let your son or daughter know you have called (and we will present your involvement/concerns in a positive way) and attempt to help them with the issues raised.
If a serious personal situation is affecting your student's academic standing or ability to keep pace with his/her course work, the Center staff can serve as a liaison with the academic units in the University (such as deans' offices, college advisors and faculty members).
The Center also handles requests for Medical Leaves of Absence for mental health reasons and requests to return to the university after a medical leave due to mental health reasons. The purpose of a Medical Leave is to allow a student time to recover from medical or mental health problems and, when healthy, return to the university.
Counselors are available Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm (508.999.8648/8650) to consult with parents and others. Counselors can offer parents and others suggestions for helping the student, provide information about resources available on and off-campus and suggestions about how to encourage the student to make an appointment to see a counselor.
My son/daughter is already in therapy and on a psychotropic medication. What should I do about the therapy and medication issue while he/she is attending UMD?
Your son/daughter should maintain their established relationship with their psychiatrist or physician to continue monitoring his/her medication as determined and agreed upon prior to leaving home for college. Most students are able to maintain their periodic medication follow-up appointment with their hometown physicians. This is particularly important since psychiatric services are limited at UMD and only available during the academic year.
We suggest that students discuss with their primary care physician and therapist treatment needs while they are away at college. If ongoing psychotherapy is desired, then both student and therapist should contact the Center, preferably before the beginning of the semester, to discuss treatment needs and plan. Plans to go home weekly or bi-weekly for psychotherapy may be difficult due to academic demands. The transition from home to college includes establishing a secure base on campus, and that secure base may include going to therapy sessions on campus at the Counseling Center.
First semester is not a good time for your son or daughter to stop therapy or to stop medication! It is recommended that your student continue with his or her therapy and medications at least through the first six weeks of classes.
Help! My son only has a little bit of his medication left and he was told UMD's psychiatrist couldn't give him medication until he meets the psychiatrist for a full-initial evaluation in two to four weeks. What do I do?
Our psychiatrist will not prescribe medication to a student with whom he does not have an established relationship. Depending on the time in the semester, it may take between 3-6 weeks before your student can actually meet with our psychiatrist. In the surrounding community, establishing a new relationship with a psychiatrist may take upwards of 6-8 weeks. The best option for the student running out of medication is to have his/her prescription renewed by the prescribing psychiatrist or physician or to request his/her regular PCP renew the prescription until psychiatric care at the university or in the New Bedford/Fall River area can be established.
What if it is very late in the night and a student is experiencing a psychological or emotional crisis?
Twenty-four emergency crisis consultation and assessment is provided to the campus community by the Center's staff through a well-coordinated protocol system with Housing & Residential Life staff and the UMassD Police Department. Housing & Residential Life staff can access the Center's staff after hours for emergency consultations. When a parent is confronted with a late-night crisis involving critical concerns such as suicidal threats or behavior, a sexual assault or acute anxiety, parents can call the Department of Public Safety (508.999.9191) to initiate a wellness check or crisis intervention. At that time, a determination will be made regarding the need for an immediate evaluation at a local hospital or whether a next-day appointment at the Center for further assessment would be appropriate.
If your son/daughter is sent to the local hospital outside of regular business hours, you will receive a call from the university's administrator-on-call advising you of the hospitalization and giving you information on how to contact the hospital. If your son or daughter needs hospitalization during hours that the Counseling Center is open, you will be contacted by Counseling Center staff. Depending on the circumstances, your son or daughter may be sent to the local emergency room via ambulance or you may be assisted in arranging for hospitalization closer to home and asked to come to campus to pick your child up. If the plan is for your child to be hospitalized near home, he or she will be required to wait for you in the Counseling Center and will receive support and supervision until you arrive.
If family arranges for a student to be hospitalized (with or without assistance from the Counseling Center), family members or the student may contact the Counseling Center (508.999.8648 or 8650) for help with informing faculty that your son/daughter will be absent and with arranging post-hospital follow-up care.
The Counseling Center's Director can recommend that a student be given a voluntary medical leave for psychological reasons. In rare cases, where a student's mental status precludes his/her asking for a voluntary leave, the director can recommend an involuntary medical leave for psychological reasons. A medical leave gives a student up to two years to deal with medical issues and return to the university without having to reapply or pay a reinstatement fee. A medical leave requires a student be in treatment during the leave and that the treating therapist document that the student is ready to return to the university by contacting the Director of the Counseling Center. Students returning from a medical leave for psychological reasons are expected to keep regular appointments at the UMD Counseling Center during their first semester back on campus.
My student has or may have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and needs to see the psychiatrist for medication. What does he/she need to do to have this happen?
Students previously diagnosed with ADHD who are currently on medication will need to work out a plan with his/her treatment provider regarding maintenance medication while the student is away at college. At this time, UMD's Counseling Center does not provided maintenance medication for students with ADHD.
The Counseling Center will evaluate students who suspect they may have ADHD and make referrals to our psychiatrist when appropriate. Once students who are diagnosed with ADHD are on a stable medication regimen, they will be referred to their PCP or an off-campus psychiatrist for maintenance medication.
Students previously diagnosed with ADHD, who have been off medication for some time or perhaps made the decision not to use medication but who now wish to be treated with medication, can be referred to our psychiatrist to discuss restarting or initiating medication. The student will need to meet with a counselor to complete a preliminary assessment before being referred to the Center's psychiatrist. Once students are on a stable medication regimen, they then will be referred off-campus for maintenance medication.
The Center strongly encourages students with ADHD to register with the Center for Access & Success (located on the ground floor of the Liberal Arts building), so that academic accommodations, when needed, can be set in place early in the semester.
The Center can provide help with the process of documenting a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD for the Center for Access and Success, for the purpose of registering and arranging academic accommodations.
The Counseling Center can help by providing individual or group counseling focused on developing good study skills, dealing with test anxiety, time management, memory tricks and test-taking strategies and on developing individual strategies to compensate for the specific disability. The Center for Access and Success can help by arranging for academic accommodations (generally a note-taker or copies of the professor's notes, some additional time on tests and/or testing in a low distraction environment). The Academic Resource Center's various programs offer tutoring and help with researching and editing papers.
If you think that your child is restricting caloric intake, bingeing, vomiting, making repeated statements about weight or body image, using laxatives/diet pills/diuretics and/or over-exercising, express care and concern about your child's behavior. Recognize that an eating disorder is a serious medical and psychological problem. Ignoring the eating disordered behavior will not make the behavior disappear. On the other hand, parents are not able to effectively "do therapy" with their own child. Instead, encourage your child to seek assistance from trained professionals. Avoid overly focusing on your child's weight or looks. Avoid blaming him/her for the disorder. Instead, engage in an open dialogue about feelings. Anticipate that your child may be hesitant or resistant to seeking treatment. Recognize also that recovery is a process and relapses may occur. If you would like to consult further, feel free to contact the Center. The Counseling Center does provide treatment for students with bulimia or binge eating disorder. The Center refers students with anorexia to off-campus specialists but will provide back-up support and help with any issues related to being a student.
Listen. Let your son/daughter express his/her feelings.
Encourage your student to report the assault. If your student is unwilling to report the sexual assault directly to the police, the report can be made anonymously. Reporting Sexual Violence
What do I say to my son/daughter who has experienced a traumatic event (e.g., unexpected death of a loved one, physical assault, mugging, etc.)?
Listen to your son/daughter and normalize the feelings expressed such as shock, fear, anxiety, confusion, and anger. Contact the Counseling Center (508.999.8648/8650) for information regarding medical attention, if necessary, and other resources pertaining to police assistance, reporting procedures, and safety.
Encourage your son/daughter to call the Counseling Center and talk with a counselor. Counseling will help him/her deal with the feelings that are interfering with daily functioning.
Most of us have experienced brief episodes of depression in our lives. Depression that lingers is likely to require professional intervention. Depression may be precipitated by a significant loss such as the loss of a loved one, loss of a special role in life, loss of physical ability due to illness or injury, loss of self-esteem after failing to reach an important goal. Perfectionism, setting unrealistically high goals, or expecting to be in control of everything in our lives--all can set us up for depression. Some common signs of depression include:
- Persistent sadness, excessive crying
- Social withdrawal
- Feeling helpless, hopeless, worthless
- Chronic fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating and remembering
- Anger, irritability
- Sleep/appetite problems
Your son/daughter may look to you as a role model and may view you as a major resource for guidance and help with his/her problem.Your willingness to be there--to listen, to support and encourage, to share your knowledge and experience, to advise--plays a significant role in your son's/daughter's persistence and success. Discuss with your student the option of coming to the Counseling Center and speaking with a professional who can help.Your son/daughter may be skeptical and reluctant to seek this help. It is important for you to accept his/her reaction, while calmly repeating your recommendation.
Sometimes parents see behaviors that cause concern about drug or alcohol use. If several of the following statements are true, your son or daughter may have a problem with drugs or alcohol:
- Has your son's/daughter's personality changed noticeably and are there sudden inappropriate mood changes (irritability, unprovoked hostility or giddiness)?
- Does your son/daughter seem to be losing old friends and hanging out with a drinking or partying group?
- Are you missing money or items that could be converted to cash?
- Is your son/daughter in trouble with the law?
- Are there signs of medical or emotional problems (ulcers, gastritis, liver problems, depression, overwhelming anxiety, withdrawal from friends and family, suicide talk or gestures)?
- Do you detect physical signs such as alcohol on the breath, pupil change, redness of eyes, slurred speech or staggering?
- Is your son/daughter concerned about his or her use of alcohol, or other drugs including marijuana?
If you speak to your student about your concerns, remember to do so calmly and to be aware of your own emotions and attitudes. Feel free to call the Counseling Center for further help with questions you may have. A counselor can speak with you regarding other factors to consider regarding assessment and treatment options. The Counseling Center has a certified substance abuse and addictions specialist on staff who can help students who have concerns about their drinking find community resources to address the problem.
Your daughter can call the Counseling Center for assistance. If you are concerned about an immediate threat to your daughter's physical safety, call the UMassD Police Department 508.999.9191.
We would like to acknowledge our colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh and SUNY New Paltz whose similar Parents FAQ pages we have liberally borrowed from in order to create our own version. We invite colleagues at other campuses to liberally borrow from these FAQs. It is this spirit of collaboration that serves our students, and our University, best.